Whether you're cutting carbs or counting points, keep these healthy principles in mind. By Jane Bianchi, REDBOOK.
Eat your veggies.
If you don't, you're likely to overeat not-as-good-for-you things like refined carbs, resulting in weight gain and poor nutrition, says registered dietitian Joan Salge Blake. That's why most diets encourage filling half your plate with veggies at every meal. Besides being low in sugar and fat and high in vitamins and minerals, they're packed with fiber to keep you full. For a creamy side dish, try a cauliflower mash with garlic and Parmesan cheese in lieu of mashed potatoes. If you like spicy food with Indian-style flavors, mix green onion, corn, and red pepper with quinoa and cumin. Or make lunch a roasted tomato and wild mushroom soup.
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You can live happily ever after with it.
You don't have to give up everything that you love in order to drop pounds--after all, that sounds like a terrible fate. So if you're a pizza fiend, go ahead and eat it, but have less of it less often. That's moderation, not deprivation, and it's much easier to keep up in the long-term. In fact, this strategy may even make that cheesy slice feel more special, and consequently, more enjoyable. Think of it in the same way that you enjoy a sunny weekend day--if you could spend all week outdoors relaxing, it wouldn't feel so special when it does happen.
Not hungry? Don't eat.
"It's easy to eat in response to feeling bored, tired, stressed, angry, or depressed," says registered dietitian nutritionist Ruth Frechman, author of The Food Is My Friend Diet. "And while it's definitely easier said than done, try to pause and think about whether you're physically hungry before taking that first bite." If you're not, try to pinpoint the emotion you're feeling and think through possible coping strategies that don't involve food. Start a mood-food note on your phone to record your thoughts and feelings each time you eat--it'll help you notice patterns. For instance, if you plow through a sleeve of Thin Mints every time your mom calls or whenever you check your savings account balance, you'll start to recognize that it's not about hunger--but something deeper. Just that awareness can help you nip the noshing reflex in the bud.
Watch your portions.
Foods aren't good or bad--it's overeating certain ones that causes them to fall into such black-and-white categories. While you can't change that the serving size of pasta is a measly cup, there are some tricks that can help you feel more satisfied. Have a piece of fruit, like an apple, orange, or banana, with every meal--the fiber, water, and volume will help fill you up. And add some contrast: Serving yourself food that matches the color of your plate (such as pasta with Alfredo sauce on a white plate or pasta with tomato sauce on a red plate) encourages you to take 22 percent more, according to research from the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab.
Chew your food.
It takes your brain 20 minutes to catch up with your stomach and signal that you're full, at which point you could have easily consumed an entire meal--and walked away feeling overstuffed. "Chew each piece of food 10 times before you swallow it to force yourself to slow down," says Frechman. Another tip: Put your utensils down after every bite and take a sip of water. That alone will give you a moment's pause to, if nothing else, speak to the people you're eating with. After all, meals are about more than just the food.
Drink water and more water.
Before you reach for a snack, grab a glass. "It's easy to mistake thirst for hunger," says Blake. If that feels totally blah, choose bubbly water or seltzer and mix it with a splash of orange, grapefruit, pineapple, or grape juice for a tropical zing. Or try Sparkling Ice, a new brand of flavored sparkling mountain spring water that comes in strawberry watermelon, peach nectarine, and coconut pineapple. But skip sugary sodas or coffee and tea, which are actually dehydrating.
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Keep a food journal.
Recording what and how much you eat is the only surefire way to know exactly what you're consuming. "When you write it down, you have to look at and face the reality," says Frechman. Even if you don't show anyone else your food diary, you'll hold yourself accountable for your choices, including those leftover chicken nuggets you swiped from your kid's plate. Or consider an app such as MyFitnessPal or an activity tracker like Nike's Fuelband, which monitor exercise.
Stick to whole grains.
They contain more fiber than refined carbs, so they'll keep you feeling full for longer. It's not just a matter of white bread or white rice--sweets like cookies, chips, and doughnuts are often full of white flour. Instead, make tasty tabouli with the supergrain freekah using parsley, basil, and mint. For breakfast, cook up buckwheat pancakes with apple slices and cinnamon. Or stuff green peppers with black beans, tomatoes, and millet instead of rice.
Weigh yourself regularly.
Since the number on the scale naturally fluctuates, it's not necessary to check yourself every day. But weighing yourself once or twice a week is the sweet spot that lets you know where you're at. Small fluctuations--in the two to three pound range--are normal, but bigger changes can be worth investigating, especially if your eating and exercise habits haven't changed, as they can indicate hormonal causes.
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